5 HEARTS: "This is the first of the Guido la Vespa Series. The story begins with Sigrid riding her pink Vespa, Guido. Yes, she really named her pink Vespa Guido. Yes, I’m smirking. Anyway, she’s trying to find a place to park Guido so she can look for a cat. She had followed a limping cat to a restaurant in Rome and she wanted to catch it and get it assistance. She does manage to catch the kitty, but then also gets caught by an owner of the restaurant she semi broke into to get said cat. Alessandro Totti, or Sandro, and his family own and run the restaurant the cat had run to. None of them could catch the cat and suddenly this woman breaks in and is able to catch it. Sigh. Okay, here’s some of the couple’s information. Sigrid is Sigrid O’Herlihy, a (Norwegian-Irish) Canadian in Rome for a three month vacation. She’s on that vacation because a few days before her wedding she walked in on her fiancé being up close and personal with another woman. Sandro is completely over relationships and love since the woman he was about to propose to dumped him for one of his childhood friends because that friend had more money. Basically, until this moment, Sigrid and Sandro had bad luck with relationships. All right, So the two of them take the cat, who Sandro named Pinot Grigio, to a twenty-four hour emergency vet. They get Pinto taken care of for the night, Sandro hands Sigrid a pamphlet for a no-kill shelter near the Pantheon and they go pack to the restaurant. This is not her modus operandi, but the two of them have scorching, hot, incredible sex. He shows her what she’s been missing as far as having a man see to her pleasure. Nice. At this point he’s kind of a jerk otherwise and they part ways. She begins volunteering at the shelter, which is something she does at home too, and tries not to think about Sandro and what the two of them did together. Meanwhile, Sandro cannot stop thinking about Sigrid. He’s testy to everyone at the restaurant, hates that he now sees animals everywhere but he can’t think of a way to keep his pride but see her again. His father, Giuseppe, comes back to Rome because of a problem with their security system which Sigrid accidentally broke when she was rescuing Pinot. Sandro finds her at the shelter and convinces her to come to the restaurant to apologize to his father in person. Giuseppe and Sigrid got on like gangbusters! It was great because the two of them love animals and try to do anything they can to help them. Between Giuseppe and Sandro they manage to convince Sigrid to spend Christmas with their family in Tuscany. The two of them decide, without his father there, to have a red-hot, smoking, no strings affair until she leaves at the end of January. They have tons of Roman sight-seeing, lots and lots of smexy time and even manage to work at the shelter together! You know, I wasn’t sure I would like this book, and I was right. I didn’t like it. I loved it! I loved that Sigrid really is the ‘Cat Whisperer’ and works hard taking care of cats and doing work at no-kill shelters. I loved all the changes Sandro went through from having Sigrid in his life. This is a Christmas story, but it is more than that. This story truly is magical! I am almost desperate to read the second book of the Guido la Vespa Series!" -- Teresa T., The Romance Studio
4 CUPS: "Amore and Pinot-Grigio is a classic love story. Both main characters came out of relationships that left them sour on romance. Sigrid O’Herlihy is a Canadian determined to tackle Rome with enthusiasm and independence. (I would not manuever those narrow streets and raucous drivers on a pink moped.) Deceived by her fiancee, she is on a mission to forget men and love. Sandro Totti is haunted by another Italian beauty who broke his heart. When they meet, sparks fly but both decide they will proceed with a ‘no-strings attached’ attitude. The scenes are steamy but do not border erotica. This practical relationship works perfectly until Sandro decides to take Sigrid to his family’s house in Tuscany. (Again, travel lovers will eat up the details. No pun intended!) Things start to unravel from here. Do you run the other way when true feelings of passion come to the forefront? Do you take a chance and trust someone one more time? What starts out as a typical ‘boy meets ‘girl’ formula quickly turns into a warm and entertaining holiday romance with the necessary misunderstandings and memorable secondary characters. Ms. Bell creates an adorable accomplice in Guido (cats and animals in general brought the pair together). The story also included the magic of Christmas and a mysterious man, Niccoli, who offers advice and guidance. But will the two scorned lovers listen and allow love to heal their scarred hearts? As a past tourist in Italy, this took me back and made me appreciate the Eternal City all over again. It brings me back to spectacular vacation packed with wonderful wine, food and lovely people. Those who have not visited will want to book a ticket after closing this book. I am also a humane investigator so the animal rescue theme made me smile and appreciate both characters even more. Love, Christmas, cute furry rescues–what more do you want? I give this story a hearty four mugs." -- Aubrey Wynne, Coffee Talk Writers
Time to face her, Sandro thought grimly, walking towards the bedroom with two cups of coffee in hand. She was sitting up in bed, having put her panties and shirt back on. She was checking her phone for messages. “Buongiorno,” he said, giving her a kiss on the nose, as though she were an annoying young friend entrusted to his care, not an equal, not a lover. He handed her a cup of piping hot black coffee.
“I didn’t know how you took it, so if you want milk or sugar, I can go get those for you.”
“No, no, black is fine. No calories.” She smiled. Awkward, she thought.
“You are slim. You could stand to take some kilos.”
“Women love hearing that,” she said. “And I am sure my remaining weeks in Italy will help in that regard.” Goodness, I sound so stilted, she thought. My remaining weeks in Italy will help me in that regard? I sound like a visiting public official. Such passion with this man last night and now we’re all weird and formal with each other. “The food here is amazing. But I try to be careful, now that I’m over thirty. Weight doesn’t come off easily as one gets older.”
“You look like a kid. I couldn’t believe it last night when you said you were over thirty.”
Finally! “Thanks, yes, I’ll be thirty-two in March.”
“And not married?”
“No,” she said indignantly. “But neither are you and you are how old?”
“I haven’t said.”
“I know, but how old are you?”
“I’ll be thirty-four in May. But it’s different for men.”
Sigrid rolled her eyes. “Of course it is. Have you heard from the vet?” Best to change the topic, she told herself, than embark on a never-ending argument about double standards.
“For once you don’t want to fight with me,” he smiled.
“No, I don’t. How is Pinot? Have you heard anything yet?”
“The bad news is that he will have to have his front right leg amputated. The good news is that he can live well like that, provided he is cared for safely indoors, and the even better news is that the staff at the hospital say he is much less of a street cat than we realized. He is friendlier now that he has been fed and given some flea treatments and is feeling more trusting.”
“So what are you saying?”
“I am saying that he needn’t be euthanized. I know that you were against that and I only thought it was an option when I believed he was a very feral cat who could never live indoors.”
“We have to find a home for him, though. I can take him, of course, and I will if needs be, but it would be better to find someone in Rome. I mean, if he comes to Canada with me he’ll have to learn to speak English, just for starters, though, of course, there is a big Italian community in Toronto.”
Sandro laughed. “For a moment I thought you were serious. You can really be quite funny when you aren’t being difficult.”
“Well, thank you, I think. But I wasn’t fully kidding. I mean, he would have to learn English in Canada.”
“Yes, well, in fact, that won’t be a problem. We don’t have to find a home for him. I have been informed that one of the young veterinary technicians at the animal hospital has already fallen in love with him and is determined to adopt him and take him into her home once his surgery has been successfully completed. I can’t think of a better match, for she will know all the proper care he might need as a cat with a disability. And of course, he will have to be neutered, as well.” Sandro winced and put his hand protectively between his legs as he said the word.
Sigrid laughed. “It’s not you being neutered!” And what a tragedy that would be.
“Well, I know, but I feel for him.”
“Believe me when I tell you, it’s better for him to be neutered, for myriad reasons.”
“Certo. My father will be happy to hear this outcome—he was worried about the little fellow yesterday. And the Totti family will be happy to pick up the cost of the surgeries and recovery time in the hospital for Pinot.”
Sigrid gasped. She had gotten so carried away the night before she hadn’t even realized that Sandro’s father might have been right down the hall the whole time. “Your father? Is he here? Does he know that I’m here?”
“No, no, don’t worry. He went to Tuscany late yesterday afternoon. We are alone here. Now, can I get you some breakfast? Would you like to take a shower? I don’t mean to rush you but I have some meetings starting in about an hour.” It was a lie. He had no meetings, at least not that morning.
Sigrid felt a figurative jackboot in the gut. Any woman who had been single long enough could recognize what was happening. Something had changed. Sandro wanted her out of there and he wanted her out of there fast. No post-sex cuddling or cooing and billing. He was distancing himself, drawing lines. It was the apparently inevitable “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me” moment.